I talked how the parties can be which are open for the public to come, but, what is it like as a person practicing the religion?
For one thing, a lot simpler. Big services are run by the asogwe and can be hectic at times or confusing. They generally are explosions of energy and joy.
For a practitioner, your personal service and experience of it is sized to what you know. I have said before that one takes the rank before being taught what is contained within that rank of information and responsibility. If you have casual interest, you have none of that. If you decide to unofficially join a House, you still won't have much, though you will probably learn your met tet (main spirit) and how to show him or her respect and more about them, perhaps another few of your escort over time if they let you know they are around.
In Vodou I was taught that every child born comes with at least seven lwa with them as escorts. For 99% of all people interested in Vodou, this is as far as they ever need to go and can be a lot of fun, given a good Elder to turn to with questions. No commitment, general guidance, learn what you discover and go with it where you want. The downside is that there is also no commitment to you from the House, or an Elder. No obligation. Most will help anyway, but you are not one of their kids, basically. Just sort of a friendly.
If you decide formally joining the faith and the House is what you want to do, the first rank is Hounsi. I went through a three day and night sequestered ceremony with three others and it was, at that time, a shock and something of an ordeal for me. I had never experienced anything like that. Hounsi can be made and initiated in the USA or wherever they are given an asogwe who knows how to run such an event.
It is said that a Hounsi is responsible for learning how to serve his own escort and obey the Elders of the House in helping run things and learn the arts involved in making a House run right, though he or she is not likely to be working in ritual matters or doing any work. Elders of the House see their job towards the Hounsi as teaching basics, explaining odd things which happen as the student works more with spirit, and handling any "work" the Hounsi needs done. Hounsi are not expected to do "work" themselves unless specifically told what or how to do something, such as making a bath or doing a special thing for his spirits he has not been shown yet.
So, the goal here is to end with a Sevitor who understands the faith and how to live with and flow with his or her own spirits and to honor God.
Si Pwen, or "On the Point" is the first rank of priesthood. Most people out there never need this step. Just as you can be a Catholic without becoming a Priest, you have no need to become a priest in Vodou. It is not like Wicca where the goal is to train students up through the ranks to become priests themselves. Si Pwen is priesthood done on the authority and "point" of your personal met tet, or primary spirit. It is the junior of the two ranks of priesthood and works under the authority of the asogwe over that person. It is said of that rank that while Hounsi are to serve their own escorts, a si pwen is to learn how to do their own magickal needs and service needs as well. This defines what they are taught.
Asogwe, the top rank of priesthood in Vodou, are taught how to serve the needs of others, using the authority of the full 21 Nations. Asogwe are said to "hold the asson", a sacred rattle used to summon the spirits, to have the right to this and to do it and use it. They are also responsible for protecting the House and its members spiritually. This is a bigger issue than some suppose at times.
Experientially, for me, my small altar group in my house when I was an hounsi expanded to a large room when I was active as an asogwe and altars honoring all the lwa, so I had the needed resources to do work for clients who might need different lwa for different needs. I ran a small House of my own but kept it small and very low profile as I was a deputy sheriff then. We went to NOLA and the main house for services or events. Nowadays, I have cut back to a small altar again, as I do not do a lot of work anymore and if I do I can easily do it with what I have and don't need to have clients come over. Generally, these are old contacts who want me for certain things. As you see here, I do not identify myself. I do not run a formal House now though it is said every asogwe IS a House.
What an asogwe does with their asson (authority) varies. I was browsing around and ran across a supposed "priestess" posting to drum up business and it fit the classic Vodou cursing and witchy stuff we are all thought to be doing and selling. Love spells and money work and that sort of thing. No judgment from me. But it is not what I do nor what I did even back then when I was active. All love spell requests I got I forwarded to a sister mambo of mine who was good at that. The main spirits I work with just aren't suited for that nor am I.
It may sound like a lot, and it is, actually, but, religions are what you want. I wanted the teaching, to know the reality of what it was made of, and my temperament was right for the most formal form of working with the lwa. There is a reason more find New Orleans voodoo much more open and accessible. So do I, now, and I am much more relaxed, but with a basis behind me of the long road, twenty years now of long road. I have plenty of room to relax and not worry about the details nor do I have followers to have to work for and protect.
This is an alien topic and world for people who are outside the ATR traditions, and I know it. The modern world doesn't even believe in spirits, most do not really even believe in God. This, to me, is God's business, not mine, how others believe. It is a matter of indifference to me, to be honest beyond watching out for the safety of myself and my family from nut cases out there. The main reason I am writing these posts is to inform people and remove some of the weird ideas floating around about the Vodou Community in general. We tend to stay to ourselves, we are not stealing your pets for sacrifices, we aren't the ones leaving goat heads in crossroads or other things I read about. Lwa are not demonic and neither are we. It is a Monotheistic religion which believes in God, and hence not an easy fit with Paganism, though not accepted by Christianity either. We are fine with that, yet, like most indigenous religions only they seem to be spreading a reputation around about us. I am just seeking to counter that with a few facts.
I write to serve.